Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Do You Know Where Your Water Goes?

Sure we all track our irrigation water usage, right? We know how many gallons of water we use in any given year, any given month and for many any given night.  For those of us in Minnesota, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) requires that we record our monthly irrigation usage.  We then pay a fee (aka. tax) based on the monthly usage along with our yearly permit.  But do you know exactly where your water is going and the amount being applied to your surfaces by the nightly irrigation cycles?

For the past 6 years we have been keeping close tabs on the volume of water being applied to the majority of our fine turf areas.  Based on the irrigation programs we created through our Toro Site Pro irrigation control system we have been able to get a fairly accurate account of our water needs as well as where the majority of our water requirements ultimately end up.

We have a wide variety of programs we use to meet our course's specific needs.  Superintendents understand there can be variability from year to year for irrigation requirements.  Those factors are based on elements surrounding weather and how that affects our turfs needs as well as the playing conditions players expect at that particular course, grass varieties, quality of the irrigation system, number of trees on the golf course, soil types as well as an whole array of factors that are really too numerous to list.



For the past 5 years our irrigation numbers have consistently ranged, from 24.1-31.3 million gallons.  This past year (2012) we saw a significant increase in our water needs, 44.5 million gallons.  There is certainly a reason for this increase. First was the grow-in and establishment of our practice facility.  Sodded bluegrass has a greater water requirement, establishing of a bentgrass tee as well as the 2nd hottest summer since records have been taken, all factor to the water requirements for our new practice facility.

The other issue affecting our large increase, I'm assuming but do not have the data to back...yet, was the loss of our main irrigation pump at the end of July.  The loss of the main pump which provides 900 gpm of water reduced us to using only our second pump which only has a 400gpm capacity.  We went from a combined capacity of 1100gpm to 400gpm for 58 days.  During that time frame we were unable to water to our normal philosophy of deep and infrequent cycles and were forced to water light and frequent to keep up with the plants water demands during the extreme heat of the summer.  I'm very interested to see how our water needs will be met this coming season with full pump capacity and if that translates into more of a normal water usage for us? This past year water used strictly on the course was up by an additional 10 million gallons compared to the average of the previous 5 years and I do not view this as an acceptable number based on past years history.  I'm hopeful the 2013 year will see our volume usage more in line with the previous 5 year history.  

One area where we seem to have less control and lack the specific knowledge to where the water goes is what we call miscellaneous or waste water (I dislike the term waste water as no water is intended to be wasted). We are unable to calculate how much water is used for syringing fine turf areas, watering in product, irrigation leaks, filling spray tanks, washing equipment, filling the pond on our 6th hole to maintain a static water level and the watering of the Har-Tru tennis courts. But based on the graphs we have a very good idea of what is being applied to our turf from year to year.

If you are a course Superintendent, do you know and have a good understanding of where your water is being used?  I view this as a valuable tool.  Planning for the unexpected is always a good idea.  That's why we buy insurance, right?  Are you prepared to address your Green Committee, Board or Owner if the DNR, city or county places water restrictions on your golf course?  If you are asked to reduce a percentage of total use, do you know how you will go about dealing with the changes required?  Knowing how much water is used and where it goes provides you with a great deal of valuable information you can use as a tool to aid you, your course and the industry, if and when those tough decisions are placed on you and your club. 










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